Wednesday, February 27, 2013

4 Tips on How to Avoid Bad Habits in Yoga Class

What is a bad habit in yoga? How does one form one? These questions and how to avoid bad habits floated through my mind recently while teaching. Students try so hard in class to do the right thing, but for what purpose? So often there is a misconception that your goal is to look "pretty", look effortless. The look of effortlessness comes from being at peace and not fighting against the body. Gaining the benefits from the pose comes from practicing each move the right way.

Bad habits are things we do as students because we either don't understand what the teacher is saying or we can't or won't do what the teacher is saying. Over time, the body remembers these tiny modifications and a bad habit is formed. Maybe it is something as simple as where you place your foot or how you hold your arm or something simple like twisting the wrong direction or not standing in the most stable position. It is muscle or body memory, the body gets comfortable and before you know it you are doing postures wrong, not getting the benefit and in an extreme case blaming yoga for either an injury or lack of results. 

The right way to practice postures is not easy, news flash, it isn't suppose to be, but it is the safe way and more rewards are reaped from correct form than allowing the mind to decide what you should be doing. 

When I think of people modifying small parts of poses to fit their body, I am reminded of something I learned in multi-level marketing; opi, other peoples ideas. The basic principal is the use other peoples ideas to improve yourself, in the case of multi-level marketing, financially. In the case of yoga, physically and mentally. And they say to people that balk at this notion, "If your ideas were so great, you would be the successful one." Use the ideas of those before you to improve the body, no need to reinvent the yoga, to change it or to improve it, it is what it is. Just follow the instructions and reap the rewards. 

Another way to look at it. "If you always do what you have always done, you will always get what you've always got."

4 Tips on How to Avoid Bad Habits:

  1. Be mindful, be present. - In class and listen to what the teacher is saying and only move to the instruction. 
  2. Look at yourself. - Really "see" yourself in the mirror and notice where your body is and how it is moving. Don't just stare in the mirror at yourself, SEE yourself. 
  3. Self correct. - When you hear a correction or instruction, look at your body and self correct. The teacher might not be talking to you yet it might apply to you. And even if you don't hear something you need to do, if you are looking at yourself, you might see you need to make a tiny adjustment; foot, hand, head, arm, etc. 
  4. No expectations, no judgement. - Let go. It's just yoga. The goal is not to get a PR or to out do the person next to you or to mimic the girl in front of you. The goal is to improve the body, mind and soul. 

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